“Nightwing. Do you know where that name comes from? Most people think it’s a Batman thing. Y’know, former Robin emulating his former mentor because bats go out at night. They’ve got wings. It makes sense. But actually, it comes from Superman. See, Big Blue told me about these legendary heroes from his home planet, Nightwing and Flamebird. The Nightwing was the great rebuilder. The catalyst of change. Eternally reborn to start anew.” – Dick Grayson
Nightwing is one of my favourite superheroes because of his skill, optimism and colourful history. The original Robin stepped out from Batman’s shadow and he’s been a part of several iconic stories. Nightwing: Better Than Batman, written by Tim Seeley, features Dick Grayson returning to his roots and reclaiming his former identity in order to infiltrate the Parliament Of Owls. But a new player with ties to Grayson’s past threatens to change his entire philosophy and drive a wedge between Batman.
The graphic novel picks up from the previous Grayson series, where Nightwing had faked his death to become part of Spyral. The Parliament Of Owls blackmailed Dick into joining them by attaching a bomb to Damian Wayne. Refusing to be beat, Dick became Nightwing again to take down the organisation. The owls decide Nightwing needs a partner who isn’t afraid to kill and they pair him with the mysterious Raptor. Dick works with Raptor to recover a ship full of refugees and delivers them to the Parliament. It becomes clear that Raptor has his own agenda, turning against the Parliament and trying to get Nightwing to join him.
“I’ve always had itchy feet. It’s an old circus term for when a performer can’t wait to leave homebase an get back out on the road. That was always me. On to the next show. Every place I’ve been, every moment I’ve lived, are just part of the road behind me…and every person I’ve met is a fellow passenger to wherever I’m going next…or someone to come back to.” – Dick Grayson
Dick’s relationship with Raptor is contrasted against his relationship with Batman. In Batman, he had a mentor who took him from the circus and raised him in a world of privilege and elitism. But Bruce made sure to give Nightwing more than he had so Dick wouldn’t be stuck in one moment. Raptor wants to show Nightwing that everything Batman taught him was wrong. He hates the upper class and feels Bruce wiped out Dick’s cultural identity in order to make him a brand extension of himself. Having known Dick’s mother, Raptor feels responsible for the former Boy Wonder.
The clashing of ideals makes up the heart of the story, with Raptor kidnapping Bruce and forcing Nightwing to choose between them. Dick feels sympathy for Raptor, pointing out how he’s exactly like Batman in that he’s trapped in a single moment. Ultimately, Raptor is defeated, but he leaves a lasting impression on Nightwing. Seeley created a memorable villain who tested his protagonist and made him question himself, which is the sign of a talented writer. Seeley’s treatment of Nightwing is also commendable, portraying him as the light-hearted, wise-cracking superhero that fans love.
Art duties are split between Javier Fernandez and Yanick Paquette. Both have their own style, but I’d say I prefer Fernandez because he has a flowing kind of art that fits with Nightwing’s personality.
Nightwing: Better Than Batman is not only a great introduction for new fans, but it also builds on Dick Grayson’s legacy and adds to his rogue gallery. You can purchase it now on Amazon.